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About BDEhrman

Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he has served as the director of graduate studies and chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

Is That One a Difference or a Contradiction?

In my previous post I began discussing the difference between differences and contradictions.  I see contradictions as a kind of difference, one that cannot be reconciled.  Some statements are just different:  Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer; Jimmy Carter was president.  Different but not mutually exclusive.  Others are contradictory: Jimmy Carter became president in 1976; Jimmy Carter became president in 1992.   Both can’t be true at the same time. UNLESS you figure out a way to reconcile them, for example, by saying that Jimmy Carter became president twice, once in 1976 and again in 1992.  But THAT reconciliation can be shown to be false by other facts (that at Bill Clinton became president in 1992).  Eventually in a case like this, one has to concede: yes, the two statements about Jimmy Carter are in fact contradictory.  In this instance, one of them is true and the other false.  In other instances, you can have contradictory statements *both* of which are false (Bill Clinton first became president in 1962; Bill Clinton first became president in 2002).  [...]

2022-08-14T12:56:21-04:00August 16th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Reflections and Ruminations|

The Difference Between Differences and Contradictions

There is a difference between a difference and a contradiction.   A difference can be reconciled; a contradiction cannot.  The trick is figuring out which is which. That’s obviously a big issue when it comes to reading the Gospels of the New Testament.  There are many, many differences, and there are also contradictions.  Some readers claim that all the contradictions are merely differences – that everything can be reconciled in one way or another.  These readers are almost always committed Christians who simply do not think there can be any actual contradictions, since that would mean that one of the writers (or more than one) made a bona fide mistake.  Given these readers’ particular doctrine of inspiration, well, that just ain’t right. On the other hand there are skeptical readers of the New Testament who find contradictions simply everywhere.  And, somewhat more surprising to me over the years, there are a lot of critical scholars who assume there is a contradiction in a place where in fact there is simply a difference.  I know this because [...]

2022-08-07T16:19:45-04:00August 14th, 2022|Canonical Gospels, Reflections and Ruminations|

An Equally Strange View of the Crucifixion

Yesterday I posted about the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter, which clearly differentiated between the man Jesus and the spiritual being, the Christ, who inhabited him temporarily – leaving him at his suffering and death since the divine cannot suffer and die.  That understanding of Jesus Christ is sometimes called "docetic," but strictly speaking that's not quite right.   The term docetic comes from the Greek word DOKEO which means “to seem” or “to appear.”  It refers to Christologies in which Jesus was not a real flesh-and-blood human but only “seemed” to be. In reality, what they saw, heard, and touched was a phantasm. That is not what is going on in the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter.  Here there really is a man Jesus – flesh and blood like the rest of us.  But he is indwelt by a divine being who leaves him at his death, abandoneding him to die alone on the cross.  That is similar to a docetic view, but also strikingly different.  I call it a “separationist” Christology because it separates Jesus from [...]

August Gold Q&A

Dear Gold Members, Yet again, it's time for our monthly Gold Q&A.   Have a question?  Ask it!  It can be anything related to the blog. To enter your question on to the list: send it to Diane at [email protected] The DEADLINE for your question is this Sunday, August 14 midnight (whenever midnight is where you live).   I will record the session soon thereafter and, if all goes to plan (does it ever?) have it released by August 18. Questions that are relatively short (a sentence or two) are more likely to be chosen; and feel free to trip me up!   Bart  

2022-08-10T15:28:57-04:00August 10th, 2022|Public Forum|

The OTHER Apocalypse of Peter (Stranger still…)

In a previous post I discussed the Apocalypse of Peter that was considered by a number of early Christians to be an inspired book of Scripture.   There is another early Christian book with the same name, which is differentiated from the "proto-orthodox" one I've already discussed by being normally referred to as the "Coptic Apocalypse of Peter."   It is intriguing both because it has a view of Christ completely different from what became the orthodox view (here the man Jesus and the divine Christ are actually different beings who are temporarily united up to the point of Jesus' death), and because it claims those with a different view (e.g., the view that "Christ died for the sins of the world") are the heretics! Here is how I discuss it in my book Lost Christianities: ****************************** Among the gnostic attacks on the superficiality of proto-orthodox views, none is more riveting than the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter discovered at Nag Hammadi.  This is not to be confused with the proto-orthodox Apocalypse of Peter in which Peter is given a [...]

Ask Me Anything! Mark Your Calendar.

We will be holding a blog fundraiser, donations voluntary, on Wednesday August 17, 8:00 - 9:15 PM Eastern Time.   It will be an Ask Bart Anything.  Any question on any topic is welcome.  If I am unable to answer, I won't.  I can only think of a few things I'd be unwilling to answer, and I'm not going to tell you what they are. We are raising money for the people suffering in Ukraine, and will split the proceeds between two of our charities: Doctors without Borders and CARE.   We are asking for voluntary donations of $30.  We would LOVE it if you could give more for this worthy cause.  Anyone who comes up with $30,000, I'll buy you a Happy Meal.  But if you can't afford $30, or can't afford anything, we completely understand.  Give what you can, if you can, and come anyway!  All are welcome. I will personally match the amount of donations we bring in up to $5000. Moreover, if there are any individual donations over $1000, I will be happy [...]

2022-08-09T18:09:16-04:00August 9th, 2022|Public Forum|

You Don’t Think Peter Wrote 1 and 2 Peter?

In my previous post I indicated that I didn't think Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter.  One of my main reasons for thinking so is that I'm pretty sure Peter could not write.  These books were composed in highly literate Greek by someone skilled in Greek composition.  To be able to compose a book took years and years of training starting with childhood.  Everyone we know like that was elitely trained and connected with a wealthy family, almost always in an urban area.  Not, for example, a rural Aramaic-speaking daylaborer from a remote part of Galilee. But couldn't Peter have "written" these books some other way -- e.g., by having a secretary or scribe do it for him?  I dealt with that question many years ago on the blog (based on much fuller discussions in my books Forged and Forgery and Counterforgery, if you want to see more of the evidence and logic) and still think the same thing.  As it turns out, there is New Testament evidence about Peter’s education level.  According to Acts [...]

A Major Forgery in the Hebrew Bible? Platinum Guest Post by Dennis Folds

I am pleased to publish this insightful and intriguing Platinum guest post by Dennis Folds, for all you fellow Platinum members.  Many of you are interested in Christian pseudepigrapha (= forgeries), especially those in the New Testament.  But what about the Old Testament?  Now *here* is a bold thesis!  Read it and remark! Remember: you too can submit a Platinum guest post.  It does not have to be sophisticated, learned, or novel.  Just write something you'd like to share with all of us, on anything at all connected to the blog and send it to me! ******************** Jeremiah Versus the Deuteronomist Forger   Dennis J. Folds, Ph.D. Given the interest in potential forgeries of NT books and other early Christian writings, I’d like to describe what may have been the most consequential forgery in the history of our Judeo-Christian faith:  the “discovery” of the long-lost book of the law of Moses, which purportedly contained the original covenant between YHWH and the Hebrews. The discovery is described in 2 Kings 22, during the renovation of the [...]

2022-08-08T12:55:40-04:00August 8th, 2022|Forgery in Antiquity, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

Why Do Some Smart People Just Not Think?

I was recently contacted by a conservative Christian theologian who was interested in doing a public back and forth with me, not necessarily a debate but an exchange of ideas on the issue of theodicy – how to explain evil in a world over which God is sovereign. What puzzled me was his explanation for suggesting the event.  He said he had followed my work for years and had read my books, but was surprised recently to find out that the reason I no longer believed in God not “for historical reasons” but because of the problem of suffering. I have to say, I found this comment to be completely mystifying.  I still do. Not for the rather obvious reason that, contrary to what he said, he clearly had *not* been following me for many years or read my books.  A constant theme of my work (blog, books, interviews) is that I became an agnostic because of the problem of suffering.  One of my books, God’s Problem, is devoted specifically to the issue, and it [...]

2022-07-25T17:31:24-04:00August 7th, 2022|Bart's Critics, Reflections and Ruminations|

A Writing of Peter that *Barely* Got Into the New Testament

  In my previous posts I’ve talked about writings that claimed to be written by Peter, the closest disciple to Jesus – a Gospel, and Apocalypse, and an Epistle . These are not the only Petrine writings floating around in the early church.  Among other things, we have two other (different) apocalypses, one of them unusually fascinating that was discovered only in 1945 (a Gnostic writing). None of these was actually written by Peter, and I don’t think there’s a biblical scholar on the planet who seriously thinks it was.  It appears that writing books in the name of Peter was something of a cottage industry in early Christianity. That should give us pause.  There are two books that also claim to be written by Peter that actually are in the New Testament.  If we know that such pseudepigrapha were floating around, on what grounds should we think these two were authentic? Of all the books of the NT that have been thought to be forged – written by an author falsely claiming to be [...]

2022-07-25T17:09:11-04:00August 4th, 2022|Public Forum|

A Letter from Peter to James … Against Paul!

I have been discussing my thoughts about a future book on the canon of the New Testament for a broad reading audience, a book that explains why we got our 27 books, why other books didn’t get in, who made the decisions, on what grounds, and when.  To introduce some of these issues I’ve already discussed two books that claimed to be written by the apostle Peter (but weren’t), the Apocalypse and the Gospel of Peter.  Neither of them made it into the NT, obviously, but both were thought by some Christian leaders to be bona fide texts of Scripture. That may be true for the third example I’ll be giving here (of a book allegedly written by Peter), but in this case it is difficult to know if anyone took it as inspired Scripture.  Whether they did or not, it never really had much of a chance to make it in.  Even so, it’s a fascinating book whose author almost certainly wanted it to be granted apostolic and canonical authority.  It is a letter [...]

2022-07-25T17:03:45-04:00August 3rd, 2022|Public Forum|

Why Do I “Trash” the Gospels??

Every now and then I get emails from people who are, well, not exactly fans.  They have heard that I've said this that or the other thing, and have no interest at all in reading anything I've written, but genuinely want to know:  Why are you trashing the Gospels? It’s a fair question, and deserves a fair answer.  I dealt with it years ago on the blog; this is what I said then. ****************************** The short story is that I’m not *trying* to trash the Gospels.   In my view, what I’m doing is showing what the Gospels really are and what they really are not.   And that is not a matter of trashing them.  It’s a matter of revealing their true character, rather than foisting a false character on them. I'd agree, of course, that by arguing that the Gospels are not historically accurate I am contesting and challenging views of the Gospels that many Christians unreflectively have (and that some Christian scholars reflectively have).  But urging a different understanding of the Gospels is not [...]

2022-07-18T15:18:45-04:00August 2nd, 2022|Bart's Critics, Canonical Gospels|

Anyone in/around Asheville NC in August?

BE Bloggers! I'm going to be in the Asheville NC area (Waynesville, actually) August 9-28 or so.  I'm out there a good bit, but not usually for this amount of time.  If any of you are in the area, let me know: if there are a few of you, maybe we could work out a blog dinner.   It would be for blog members only; each person would pay for him/herself; and we would spend an evening engaged in interesting discourse! Let me know -- not here but on my private email -- and we'll see what, if anything, can happen!  [email protected]     

2022-08-02T11:12:42-04:00August 1st, 2022|Public Forum|

Reminder about My Gospels Course This Weekend

This is a reminder (or a minder, if you missed it the first time) that I will be doing an eight-lecture online course this coming weekend, four lectures on on Saturday and four on Sunday, with Q&A following each, on the four canonical Gospels. Here was the original announcement from a couple of weeks ago. ******************************   I am pleased to announce that I will be doing another online course, the second in the series: How Scholars Read the Bible.  The first, if you recall, was a six-lecture course on Genesis.  This one will be an eight-lecture course called:  The Unknown Gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As with all the courses I do online, this one will NOT be in connection with the blog per se – it is part of my separate venture (Bart Ehrman Professional Services) that you can find at my personal website http://www.bartehrman.com.   I am announcing it here on the blog because I know some of blog members will be interested (and some would be rather aggravated if I [...]

2022-08-02T11:10:07-04:00August 1st, 2022|Public Forum|

Another Book by “Peter” That Could Have Become Scripture

In this thread I’m discussing several Christian books that were considered by some early groups of believers and church leaders to be bona fide Scripture – written by apostles and inspired by God.  All of the books I’m discussing were written by authors who were claiming to be Jesus’ closest disciple, Peter.  But eventually church fathers became convinced otherwise, and the books were relegated to the trash heap of Christian curiosities. Here’s one that has become known only in modern times and that has intrigued readers – both scholars and lay folk.  What exactly did church leaders find objectionable about it?  It was an account of Jesus’ life, a Gospel.   ******************************   The Gospel of Peter:  A Book That Had Some Supporters One of the other books found in the small anthology discovered in Akhmim also claimed to be written by Peter, and it too was considered a book of Scripture by at least some Christians.  But, like the Apocalypse, it also lost favor and disappeared from sight.  This one, however, was a Gospel. [...]

2022-07-18T15:11:21-04:00July 31st, 2022|Book Discussions, Christian Apocrypha|

A Book That Nearly Became Scripture: The Apocalypse of Peter

As I indicated in my previous post, I’m planning to write a book (after the one on charity in early Christianity) explaining how we got the canon of the New Testament.  Who choose the books?  On what grounds?  And when? I continue the thoughts I’m laying out in my prospectus here, in the first of four case studies – a book that almost made it in.   ******************************     Four Vignettes to Explain the Issues To illustrate some of the major issues, to show how the process worked, to give a sense of the historical disputes, and to show their inherent interest, I here provide four vignettes, all involving books that explicitly claim to be written by the apostle Peter.  Peter is Jesus’ closest disciple and confident in the Gospels.  No one could carry more authority for explaining Jesus’ teachings and his plans for his followers after his death.  It comes as no surprise, then, to find a number of early Christian books that claim to be written by Peter.  Two of them are [...]

2022-07-18T14:52:55-04:00July 28th, 2022|Book Discussions, Christian Apocrypha, Public Forum|

And Then My NEXT Book Project: How Did We Get the Canon of the NT?

In my most recent thread I laid out my thoughts on my next book (what I *think* will be my next book) on how Christian views of charity helped revolutionize ancient (and as a consequence, modern) society. Now I will begin a series on my thoughts for my book after that.  Throughout the past ten or fifteen years I’ve always thought two books ahead; that way when I’m writing a book, in my down time I can be thinking a bit about the next one.  It’s kind of pleasant, actually, since there is no pressure on my thoughts – I haven’t even starting to work on it yet! As I may have mentioned already, I will probably propose a two-book deal to my publisher, that is to have a contract for two books instead of one.  That way my thinking can be even more serious about #2.   I’ve done that a couple of times before.  The first time, it happened (Triumph of Christianity and Heaven and Hell) and the second time, the publisher didn’t go [...]

2022-07-18T14:46:42-04:00July 27th, 2022|Book Discussions, Christian Apocrypha|

Is It Even Possible to Follow Jesus’ Teaching? What Do You Think?

Here is a post where I raise a fundamental question that I find very hard to answer.  I will not be able to respond to all your reflections, but I will read them all and am very eager to see what you have to say. In connection with my next book I’ve been reading a lot of writings by the church fathers from the 2-5th centuries to see what they have to say about giving away wealth.  A big issue for some of these writers was whether committed Christians should give away *everything* to the poor, or rather keep most of their wealth but still be generous in their giving. Throughout history, of course, most Christians have been (and still are) attracted to the second option.  I’ve argued in previous posts, however, that Jesus appears to have taken the first, urging his followers to divest completely and live lives of abject poverty.  It’s not an attractive option, and very few see the point of it – to the extent that most people simply say that [...]

2022-07-27T10:33:15-04:00July 26th, 2022|Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

Specious Arguments for the Truth of the Bible

Professors who have taught the same subject for decades often get tired with covering the same material time after time and, as a result, answering the same questions time after time.  I've had friends who teach New Testament tell me: "If I have to teach the Synoptic Problem ONE MORE TIME I am going to SCREAM…." I've never felt that way. It's probably just a matter of personality and brain chemistry.  For me, teaching someone who doesn't know something that I’ve taught for many years just means they haven’t had the chance to learn it. It’s the same outside the classroom with questions/comments I get – the same questions all the time. I’ll admit that often in the first nano-second I sometimes think: Why don’t they just GET IT?  But then I remember: Wait a second.  This person hasn't heard the answer.... Here is a question that comes to me all the time.  I got it again a few days ago.   QUESTION: I have a brief question. I was a biblical studies major in college [...]

2022-07-27T10:26:09-04:00July 24th, 2022|Bart's Critics, New Testament Manuscripts|

Doing Critical Scholarship as a Committed Christian: Anniversary Guest Post by Jeffrey Siker

As part of our ten -year anniversary on the blog, we requested special anniversary posts from scholars who had, over the years, made guest contributions; our instructions were that they could post on any topic of their choice for the event.  We had a gratifying number of scholar-colleagues-friends of mine graciously respond.  I'll be posting one of them a week, and then at the end figure out a way to combine them into one big kind of anniversary blog post e-book for distribution. Here is the first in line, written by one of my closest friends Jeff Siker, Professor Emeritus at Loyola Marymount University, an expert in New Testament studies publishing in international venues since our graduate student days oh so many decades ago.  Jeff is an ordained Presbyterian minister who, like me, has trouble understanding why so many people seem to think that critical scholarship is necessarily inimical to being a Christian.  On the contrary, as he says, he has one foot in the academy and the other in the church. Here are some [...]

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